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Arts & Culture

The Arab Americans

President John F. Kennedy with White House correspondent Helen Thomas.
Courtesy of WTTW/ PBS
President John F. Kennedy with White House correspondent Helen Thomas.

Airs Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Explore personal stories of Arab-Americans and their contributions to the American experience.

At a time of heightened political focus and continued misconceptions about Americans of Arab descent, the groundbreaking one-hour documentary "The Arab Americans" will highlight the rich contributions of this group to the American culture.

This film beautifully presents a previously unexplored chapter of rich American history, and ties the rise and tribulations of this often misunderstood and maligned immigrant community to historical markers.

The Arab Americans: Preview

In his inaugural debut as producer and director, Abe Kasbo's timely new film vividly paints a portrait of the Arab-American immigrant experience through the inspiring stories of extraordinary people who have come to America in pursuit of the American Dream, including:

  • Senator George Mitchell
  • Presidential Candidate and consumer advocate Ralph Nader
  • Actor Jamie Farr
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Anthony Shadid
  • White House correspondent Helen Thomas
  • Actor and founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Danny Thomas
  • General John Abizaid (Ret. Four Star)
  • Indy500 winner and racing legend Bobby Rahal
  • Pollster John Zogby
  • Former West Virginia Congressman Nick Joe Rahall
  • Washington D.C. restaurateur and activist Andy Shallal
The Arab Americans

"The Arab Americans" places the Arab-American immigrant experience within the context of American history, telling the deeply relevant yet untold story of almost 150 years of enrichment of the American fabric by immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula to the United States.

The documentary explores early and multiple waves of immigration, along with the tremendous impact of 9/11 on the Arab American community and its challenges and dreams in light of the zeitgeist.

"I grew up admiring America from Aleppo as a child, and now as an American citizen, I am fortunate to bring both unique perspectives to this documentary,” said Kasbo. “The Arab-American experience is simply the American experience, and we can only complete our national story and identity when we know and understand everyone else's story. It’s a story that needs to be told today more than ever," he continued.

Audience reaction:

"Your work is so important to not forget the melodic sounds in all this cacophony of loud shrieks.  So, thank you for doing your part in taking charge of the narrative.  I hope lots of people will hear you!!!"

"Incredibly powerful reminder of American history and the contributions of all Americans."

"Abe Kasbo's new film clearly and beautifully exemplifies what so many people, of any nationality, experienced immigrating to the U.S. His documentary is about what being American is all about.”   

"The timeliness of this film's completion, with current world events, only speaks louder of what we all need to keep in mind about who we are as Americans and citizens of humanity."

WATCH ON YOUR SCHEDULE:

The film is available to view on demand with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members ($60 yearly) using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

The DVD is available for purchase at ShopPBS.org.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:

"The Arab Americans" is on Facebook, and you can follow @ArabAmericanDoc on Twitter. Follow filmmaker Abe Kasbo @akasbo on Twitter.

PBS is on Facebook, and you can follow @PBS on Twitter.

CREDITS:

Studio: Zeitoune FilmWorks. Produced and directed by Abe Kasbo; narrated by the critically acclaimed, award-winning Iraqi-American playwright and actress Heather Raffo ("Nine Parts of Desire"); and written by Gia M. Amella ("And they Came To Chicago"). Original music is by Damascus-born renowned indie artist Gaida, (Jonathan Demme’s "Rachel is Getting Married" and "Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains"). Foundation support for the film: John Templeton Foundation, The Victor Machuga Foundation, and The Levant Foundation.